I am an American male planning on teaching English in Taipei starting in June. I have a Bachelor
For an experienced teacher, working at a chain may be stifling, but for a newbie, they’re not so bad. At least at a chain school you’ll get consistent hours, which is a problem I’ve had at a lot of non-chain schools whenever they have dips in student enrollment. I’ve worked for Joy and they have a pretty good program, and will provide you with training. But here’s the thing about chain schools - you can’t generalize about the entire chain because every branch is different. That is, the branches in most chains are individually owned by locals, who basically pay for the chain for the brand name & materials. The quality and working conditions are going to be totally different branch to branch. The boss over at the branch in Hsinchu may be great to work with but the boss over at the branch in Taoyuan may make your life a living hell. So it’s a crapshoot, really. Personally my advice is to work for two or three schools at the same time so that if things don’t work out, you’re not chained to any one job, but you have to have been here for a year or so before you can pull that kind of thing off. So go ahead and start off with one of the big chains, and after a year or so look around for something better.
Since you’re not lining a job up before coming, you’ll have the advantage of being able to talk to each school directly. You may stumble upon a great independent school, then no worries!
However, if the independents you find are of the “here’s your book and here’s your class, go!” variety, then it sounds like a chain school would be an acceptable option for you.
Some folks just HATE following strict teaching guidelines and for them I’d recommend they stay FAR AWAY from chains. However, as you note, chain schools can be a nice way to start out. No worries about WHAT to teach during the first few weeks and months when you are settling into a new home, a new job and a whole different country. You’ve even got a Chinese co-teacher to help with discipline. I worked at a big chain, and even with their VERY structured lesson plans, there was some room for creativity, and the kids were fun to get to know.
You do your best to avoid working for miserable managers, but that’s always a bit of a crapshoot, especially when you’re new to the Taiwan English teaching scene and don’t really have any experience to base judgements upon.